Effects of Rural Sanitation on Infant Mortality and Human Capital: Evidence from India's Total Sanitation Campaign
Dean Spears
Abstract: Open defecation without a toilet or latrine is among the leading global threats to health, especially in India. Although it is well-known that modern sewage infrastructure improves health, it is unknown whether a sanitation program feasible for a low capacity, poor country government could be effective. This paper contributes the first causally identied estimates of effects of rural sanitation on health and human capital accumulation. The Indian government's Total Sanitation Campaign reports building one household pit latrine per ten rural persons from 2001 to 2011. The program offered local governments a large ex post monetary incentive to eliminate open defecation. I use several complementary identification strategies to estimate the program's effect on children's health. First, I exploit variation in program timing, comparing children born in different years. Second, I study a long difference-in-differences in aggregate mortality. Third, I exploit a discontinuity designed into the monetary incentive. Unlike many impact evaluations, this paper studies a full-scale program implemented by a large government bureaucracy with low administrative capacity. At the mean program intensity, infant mortality decreased by 4 per 1,000 and children's height increased by 0.2 standard deviations (similar to the cross-sectional difference associated with doubling household consumption per capita). These results suggest that, even in the context of governance constraints, incentivizing local leaders to promote technology adoption can be an effective strategy
How much international variation in child height can sanitation explain?
Dean Spears
Physical height is an important economic variable reflecting health and human capital. Puzzlingly, however, differences in average height across developing countries are not well explained by differences in wealth. In particular, children in India are shorter, on average, than children in Africa who are poorer, on average, a paradox called “the Asian enigma” which has received much attention from economists. This paper provides the first documentation of a quantitatively important gradient between child height and sanitation that can statistically explain a large fraction of international height differences. This association between sanitation and human capital is robustly stable, even after accounting for other heterogeneity, such as in GDP. The author applies three complementary empirical strategies to identify the association between sanitation and child height: country-level regressions across 140 country- years in 65 developing countries; within-country analysis of differences over time within Indian districts; and econometric decomposition of the India-Africa height differences in child-level data. Open defecation, which is exceptionally widespread in India, can account for much or all of the excess stunting in India.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing of all is the simple summary statistic that there are many regions where >50% of households do not have toilets.


Self-control and long run outcomes

A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety
Terrie E. Moffitt et al.
Abstract: Policy-makers are considering large-scale programs aimed at selfcontrol to improve citizens’ health and wealth and reduce crime. Experimental and economic studies suggest such programs could reap benefits. Yet, is self-control important for the health, wealth, and public safety of the population? Following a cohort of 1,000 children from birth to the age of 32 y, we show that childhood selfcontrol predicts physical health, substance dependence, personal finances, and criminal offending outcomes, following a gradient of self-control. Effects of children’s self-control could be disentangled from their intelligence and social class as well as from mistakes they made as adolescents. In another cohort of 500 sibling-pairs, the sibling with lower self-control had poorer outcomes, despite shared family background. Interventions addressing self-control might reduce a panoply of societal costs, save taxpayers money, and promote prosperity.
click to enlarge
 Related results from China's One Child Policy here.



Ever been sitting by a window in the space station and feel annoyed that clouds are obstructing your view? Charlie Lyod and Chris Herwig of Mapbox (covered before on FE) have a simple but clever solution: sort your data by pixel.

Their explanation is clearer than mine (pun intended). I just wanted to post the pretty pictures.



I think this idea has several applications beyond clearing the skies.

h/t Young


Bruce Hansen's Econometrics textbook

Dave Giles over at Econometrics Beat points out that the new version of Bruce Hansen's Ph.D.-level econometrics textbook is now available. It's freely available as a pdf in both standard and iPad formattings, and flipping through it a bit it seems to be quite readable. I particularly like the opening quote from Ragnar Frisch, first editor of Econometrica and, apparently, progenitor of the term "econometrics":

"[T]here are several aspects of the quantitative approach to economics, and no single one of these aspects, taken by itself, should be confounded with econometrics. Thus, econometrics is by no means the same as economic statistics. Nor is it identical with what we call general economic theory, although a considerable portion of this theory has a definitely quantitative character. Nor should econometrics be taken as synonymous with the application of mathematics to economics. Experience has shown that each of these three view-points, that of statistics, economic theory, and mathematics, is a necessary, but not by itself a sufficient, condition for a real understanding of the quantitative relations in modern economic life. It is the unification of all three that is powerful. And it is this unification that constitutes econometrics."

Topics covered are below the fold.


Google search data for forensic epidemiology

Two recent papers have come out demonstrating that Google searches can provide extraordinarily rich data for forensic epidemiologists:


The potential for global fisheries management

Status and Solutions for the World’s Unassessed Fisheries
Christopher Costello, Daniel Ovando, Ray Hilborn, Steven D. Gaines, Olivier Deschenes, Sarah E. Lester
Recent reports suggest that many well-assessed fisheries in developed countries are moving toward sustainability. We examined whether the same conclusion holds for fisheries lacking formal assessment, which comprise >80% of global catch. We developed a method using species’ life-history, catch, and fishery development data to estimate the status of thousands of unassessed fisheries worldwide. We found that small unassessed fisheries are in substantially worse condition than assessed fisheries, but that large unassessed fisheries may be performing nearly as well as their assessed counterparts. Both small and large stocks, however, continue to decline; 64% of unassessed stocks could provide increased sustainable harvest if rebuilt. Our results suggest that global fishery recovery would simultaneously create increases in abundance (56%) and fishery yields (8 to 40%).